Actor Anthony Michael Hall Talks Summer Drive-In Film Festival, Movies Post-Pandemic and ‘Wiseass’ Robert Downey Jr.

When actor Anthony Michael Hall made a special, in-person appearance at EVO Entertainment in Schertz six months ago for a screening of his 1985 comedy The Breakfast Club, he hoped the success of the event could expand into a film festival that would feature a handful of his classic movies.

Then, COVID-19 began to spread, and everyone hit the pause button, including movie theaters. But Hall never forgot about his plans. So, when EVO converted its parking lot into a pop-up drive-in theater in late March, he and EVO CEO Mitch Roberts agreed that holding the film festival outdoors would bring out the most guests.

It turned out to be a good decision since Anthony Michael Hall’s Summer Drive-In Film Fest sold out its first three weekends. The next available weekend to purchase tickets is for the August 7-8 event when Hall will be joined by actor Robert Patrick for a screening of the 1991 sci-fi classic Terminator 2: Judgement Day and the 2017 dramedy War Machine, in which Hall stars alongside Brad Pitt.

The final weekend, August 14-15, is also not sold out yet. Hall will present two films featuring himself and Robert Downey Jr. – the 1994 comedy Hail Caesar, which Hall also directed, and the 1988 comedy Johnny Be Good, which was shot in San Antonio.

The Current caught up with Hall last week on the phone to talk about his childhood memories at the drive-in theater, the future of the film industry once COVID-19 is behind us and why he calls Johnny Be Good co-star Robert Downey, Jr. a “wiseass.”

What’s your earliest memory of going to the drive-in theater?

It was Jaws in the '70s. I went with my grandfather. It freaked me the fuck out, especially when [the shark] ate Robert Shaw whole. That was a great flick. It was the experience as a kid going to the drive-in. In my opinion, it was even cooler than a movie theater.

There are only 305 permanent drive-in theaters operating in the United States today. Do you think drive-ins will eventually die out, or will nostalgia allow for a few to survive?

I think they will stand the test of time. I think these things represent the best of our country. Movies and sports are ingrained in our culture. I think [drive-in theaters] will always be there – just like bowling alleys. Times change and we’re in the 21st century, but I think people still crave those things that we grew up with. I love seeing that it’s a trend that people are reverting back to.

We’re going to have to wait an entire year to see you in the sequel Halloween Kills now that it has been pushed back by the studio. Does it worry you as an actor to think about what the film industry is going to look like once COVID-19 is behind us?

People love movies. I don’t think the theater-going experience should go away. Our industry is transforming. We all love streaming. But just like a sporting event, nothing can replace that experience. Years ago, I read an interesting quote from Orson Welles where he talked about the film-going experience in the context of the 1940s. He said there is something spiritual about sitting in the dark [watching a movie] with a bunch of strangers. It’s the idea of escapism.

(Editor’s note: The Current could not find the quote Hall was referencing but did come across an interesting one linked to Welles from 1953 about the film industry: “I rather think the cinema will die. Look at the energy being exerted to revive it – yesterday it was color, today three dimensions. I don't give it 40 years more.”)

What do you remember most about shooting Johnny Be Good in San Antonio?

[Robert] Downey [Jr.] is a good friend of mine. We’ve been friends since our Saturday Night Live days. All these years later, Downey calls it Johnny B-Movie. He’s a wiseass now that he has $500 million – Mr. Iron Man. He can crack jokes like that. We loved making [Johnny Be Good]. The thing I remember about making it is that the script was so skinny. We had no script. We had a great time all those years back. I remember the River Walk. The whole cast and crew stayed at St. Anthony’s Hotel. I love San Antonio. It was a great experience.

You were around 17 years old when you shot Weird Science. Your co-star Kelly LeBrock was around 25. Is it safe to assume that every young actor on that set had a crush on her?

Of course. You know what it was like? It was like those Sea Breeze commercials [from the 80s]. It was like that. She had that effect. She’s remained a great friend all these years. What I can say about her is that she disarms everyone with her humor. She’s such a cool person. She’s super funny, even more than she was in [Weird Science].

There’s an HBO documentary called Showbiz Kids that just debuted this week that interviews former child stars, like yourself, about the negative side of Hollywood. I read …

Yeah, they asked me to do that shit, but I didn’t want to do that. I always honor [filmmaker] John Hughes. On this tour, I’m screening films that gave me my career. John gave me my career. I just choose to disengage from that kind of stuff that takes that angle. I just don’t feed into that shit. I don’t like that. I think it casts a light on people and then perpetuates the thing that it’s bringing light to.

For more information on Anthony Michael Hall’s Summer Drive-in Film Festival taking place at the EVO Entertainment venues in Kyle and Schertz, Texas, visit their website.

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